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29.04.2020 Feature Article

Managing Coronavirus In The Expectation Of An Imminent Vaccine

Managing Coronavirus In The Expectation Of An Imminent Vaccine
LISTEN APR 29, 2020

A vaccine against COVID_19 is likely by end September 2020. For the following reasons:

- A vaccine for SARS was developed in 18 months. Data on the safety, immunization schedule, dosage and efficacy of the SARS vaccine would shorten COVID-19 vaccine development, given the closeness between the SARS and COVID_19 viruses

- 18 months is a short time to develop a vaccine, yet by the time this feat was achieved for the SARS vaccine, SARS had disappeared into thin air. Vaccine development is a very costly business that runs into hundreds of millions of dollars, typically between USD300 to 500million from research to vaccine registration. A hidden cost is diversion of the best brains and resources a drug company can muster - away from existing vaccines/drugs under manufacture and quality control (at a time the drug company is raking in enormous amounts of money from those drugs/vaccines), to work on developing a new vaccine for an infection of immediate and greater threat.

A drug company losing out on making money from a SARS vaccine is unlikely to rush into rapid development of a COVID-19 vaccine. Ditto other drug companies. Yet I believe the extent and significantly the politics of COVID-19 would favour a more rapid development of a COVID-19 vaccine than the SARS vaccine

The high death toll in COVID-19 particularly in countries unaccustomed to high infection death rates; the economic devastation particularly in countries with low tolerance for economic hardship, and the willingness of Governments to foot the bill and hasten vaccine trial processes (Britain is supporting the Oxford University effort and the Chinese Government is well advanced in the vaccine development), all indicate the likelihood that the time record for vaccine production would be broken.

The drive to come out with a COVID-19 vaccine for economic and political reasons – to corner the market and the prestige of doing so, is powerful indeed especially if, as it were, consensus is built over COVID_19 resurgence after the current storm(s).

- Anyone familiar with phases of the clinical development of drugs/vaccines would readily notice, from current published COVID-19 vaccine development efforts, where shortcuts are being cautiously taken. Of the three phases of clinical development, phase 1 is being sacrificed or rather VIRTUALLY skipped (over data in SARS vaccine development); phase 3 would be VIRTUALLY the prophylactic in-use stage of the vaccine; hence development of the COVID-19 vaccine would be VIRTUALLY a phase 2 development. As you all read articles on the progress of COVID-19 vaccine development in the media and journals, please keep an eye on my observations in this paragraph.

Ghana must manage her SARS-COV-2 viral burden on the reasonable assumption that a vaccine would be out within 6 months. Such approach should not engender complacency because you do not want your population to die off ahead of a vaccine. Au contraire such approach should encourage increased vigilance in limiting COVID-19 spread in the reasonable expectation that the enormous resources in increased vigilance would not be wasteful or endless.

Nii Armah Kweifio-Okai
29 April 2020

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